Vikes get jump on basketball season

UVic plays host to some tough competition at Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament

UVic Vikes basketball player Grant Sitton leaps to take a shot during Canada West play in CARSA. The Vikes host the biannual Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament with some big names visiting Thursday to Saturday

After a long summer for the UVic Vikes men’s basketball team, the start of the CIS season can’t come soon enough.

After missing the Canada West playoffs in the expanded basketball conference last year, the Vikes are ready to go, says six-foot-nine forward Grant Sitton.

So it’s a blessing that the Vikes will hit the floor this week when they host the biannual Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament at CARSA.

The action starts Thursday with McGill vs. McMaster at 6 p.m. followed by the Vikes against Regina at 8 p.m. The Vikes will face McGill at 8 p.m. on Friday and McMaster at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“A lot of guys are chomping at the bit to get going, we’ve been practising a lot,” Sitton said. “The training goes back to the spring. It seems early right now but a lot of the guys dedicated a lot of time over the summer.”

The team did play an exhibition game in August, a 92-73 loss to the NCAA DIv. 1 Charlotte 49ers. But it’s already been a month, and the Canada West season doesn’t start until Oct. 28.

Sitton is in his fifth and final year of university eligibility, his third season with the Vikes since transferring from Clackamas Community College in Oregon. The Washington state resident stuck around Victoria all summer to train with the team and will be a key player as his average points per game of 14.4 from 2015-16 is the highest of the returning players.

“For me, no matter how successful we were, I was going to be working hard to get ready for this season because it’s my last year,” Sitton said. “But not making the playoffs last year leaves a bad taste in your mouth, makes you want to strive harder, it humbles you and makes you want to succeed more.

The Vikes add a number of new faces, Jake Newman, Noah Charles, J.J. Hamel Carey, Vladislav Zasmolin, Scott Kellum and Wayne Tucker. They return several including St. Michaels University School grads Jason Scully and Graeme Hyde-Lay, who enter their second year.

For Sitton, it’s already a special season, because it’s his last.

“It feels weird to talk about being in your last year,” Sitton said. “When you’re a kid, you never think about the end of playing competitive basketball, but it just flies by. Which is funny, because every year there’s a senior on the team who says the time just flies by, and the next thing you know you’re the senior telling it to the kids.”

The Guy Vetrie will give the Vikes a chance to test their new approach, as they’re looking to push the ball faster and get on transition with speed to pick up the pace of the game. The new guys will help with that, Sitton said.

The UVic Vikes women’s team are also hosting for the Guy Vetrie Memorial in CARSA this week. The women will face Ottawa at 4 p.m. on Thursday and UNBC at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Next week George Fox University will visit the Vikes women for a special exhibition game, Oct. 7 at CARSA.

Normally the Guy Vetrie Memorial runs every two years but it was held in 2015 to celebrate the opening of CARSA, making 2016 the third straight year it’s run.

Vetrie coached for the Vikes men’s team from 1989 until he died suddenly at the age of 52 in 2003. During his tenure the team had an impressive streak of 543 victories in 14 seasons.

Visit govikesgo.com for more information.